The Real Wonder Woman

My mom is amazing in so many ways.

She’s been my biggest advocate when I couldn’t speak for myself, when I didn’t know what was good for me, and when I was my own worst enemy. Yes, sometimes we butt heads (my teenage years were somewhat of a nightmare), but she’s been with me through thick and thin and we always make it out to the other side.

“Life skills” aren’t exactly my forte. I’ve been known to strew garbage and dirty clothes all over my bedroom floor, and my car is affectionately known as the trashmobile. I could probably stand to bathe and brush my teeth more often than I do, and I frequently forget to put on deodorant. I never know where my wallet is, and lately I’ve become basically nocturnal, going to bed at midnight or later, and not waking up until the evening unless I have an alarm (or six alarms–let’s be real) set and a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Last week, I had a meltdown. A bunch of little things piled up and I was so very lonely in the aftermath of breaking up with Rebecca, and I found myself sobbing in my bed, unable to sleep.

So, I did the only thing I knew to do and called my mom, who arrived at my door in minutes. I’d been avoiding having my mom to my house because of its state of disrepair. There were empty cigarette packs on the front porch, an overflowing ashtray, a mountain of dishes in the kitchen sink, trash on the counter, mail strewn about on the dining room table… You get the picture.

My mom is an organization queen. HGTV is always on at her house. She has three desks, and if there’s an event or appointment coming up, you can bet she has it penciled into her planner. She loves labels, boxes, and bins (for items, not for people!) and everything has a home in her house.

That night when my mom came to get me, I finally told her how bad things were. I told her that I was embarrassed to let her into the house because I didn’t want her to see how messy it was. She reacted with compassion–as she always does. She helped me formulate a plan and put it into action.

The first step was putting sheets on my bed. Yep, that’s right, I’d been sleeping on a bare mattress for weeks. Gross, I know. We had to throw away my pillows because my medicine makes me drool in my sleep (like, A LOT of drool. Yes, I know. Gross.) and they reeked. Luckily, we found protective pillowcases at Target to go under the regular pillowcases. Who knew such a thing existed?! Not me!

After we got the bed sorted out, we picked up every item on the floor, which was basically my entire wardrobe and a fuckload of garbage. I had no idea I have so many socks, especially considering 99% of the time I wear Birkenstocks, and even though I wear boots to work, I don’t normally bother to put on socks because I’m usually in such a rush to get out the door so I have time to buy a chocolate milk before I clock in.

My wonderful, amazing mom did all my laundry. There were at least five hampers of clothes. She took them all to her house, washed and folded them, and returned them to me within days. It takes me, like, three years just to fold one load of laundry, and half of it usually ends up in bed with me anyway.

Next, we started opening drawers. Guess what we found! Garbage! More socks! I could start a sock puppet army! They don’t even have mates! Where in the hell are they all coming from? We also found an abundance of pens, fish tank decorations, miscellaneous cords, and chargers. (What do they connect to? I have no idea!) And lighters. So. Many. Lighters. When my roommate used to smoke, she’d get on Rebecca and me for taking her lighters because she could never find one. I bought us all lighter leashes, and my roommate wrote her initials on a couple of them. Little did we know all the lighters were having a party in my dresser drawer.

But on a more serious note, I have SO MUCH shit! I’m a hoarder in training. Yes, I have an obsession with cute mugs, and fancy pens, and colorful notebooks, and crayons! I LOVE crayons! But there is no reason for me to have over three hundred crayons or twelve notebooks that only have a couple of pages filled in them.

There’s ephemera from past relationships. It feels weird to throw it away, but what am I going to do with a full-color caricature of myself and someone who used to be a big part of my life and no longer is?

We found my first bite splint (basically a fancy mouth guard to keep me from grinding my teeth in my sleep. I had to have gum grafts a few years ago because my gums had receded from constantly grinding and clenching my jaw), which was also weird to throw away. My parents spent a couple hundred dollars on that, and into the trash it goes. (Its successors have all gotten lost except for the one that went through the washing machine and dryer. Oops…)

I have a collection of scented candles that all smell like some variety of “soft cotton blanket” or “mysterious stranger following you through the woods.”

SO MANY photographs from my film camera, along with negatives that are now unusable because they’re scratched and crumpled from being under several layers of detritus on my floor.

Flash drives! I’m lousy with ’em! What’s on them? Probably essays I wrote for AP Lang/Comp in high school and my “Feed Your Imagination” project I did during my first year of college.

This afternoon, after class, a trip to the psychiatrist (all is well!), lunch together, and a brief stop at a couple of home goods stores, my mom helped me haul out the garbage and recycling to the front of my abode. I was getting grumpy, distracted, thinking about the assignment that was due tonight for my Literature class, and didn’t really care if we put the striped sheets or the dotted sheets on my bed.

Once all the bags (and there were a lot of them!) were out by the curb, my mom turned to me and said, “Do you know what this is?”

“Uh… garbage?” I said.

“Freedom,” Mom answered.

I will admit, I thought my mom was being a little dramatic with that statement, but she has a point. My hoarding tendencies have always resulted in any of my spaces feeling less like a room and more like a nest. It’s strange, but my disaster zone of a bedroom was comforting in a way.

But on the other hand, there is value in knowing where things are. Like, where they are specifically, not just “Yeah, the black tank top is in the pile over there by the embroidery supplies and under the broken e-cigarette.”

My mom has always emphasized the importance of tidiness. I used to argue that tidiness had nothing to do with maturity, as my mom would have me believe. I cited examples like an elementary school classmate’s parents who were both college professors, but lived in squalor. I declared that being a slob was just “part of who I am.”

They say the only constant in life is change. If that’s true, it’s not too late for me to change my ways and build new habits of taking care of myself and my spaces.

I am so thankful to have a mom who meets me where I am and loves me enough to help me the way she does. I know I’ve put her through hell at times, but she loves me anyway and I love her.

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